Robert Browning

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What themes and ideas does Robert Browning discuss in the collections Dramatic Romances and Lyrics and Men and Women?

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Dramatic Romances and Lyrics and Men and Women are both poetry collections by Robert Browning, and they cover a variety of themes and ideas. Let's look at some of these in both collections to get you started on this question.

Dramatic Romances and Lyrics contains many different poems covering a variety of subjects. Nostalgia and a longing for home appear in the two “Home-Thoughts” poems. Love and longing lie at the center of “Meeting at Night” and “The Lost Mistress.” “The Lost Leader,” which refers to poet William Wordsworth, reflects on the proper nature and purpose of poetry. Reflections on nature appear throughout the collection, as do meditations on life and death, pride and honor, and envy and corruption (think, for example, of “The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxed's Church”).

When we turn our attention to Men and Women, we notice many of the same themes. The poems in this volume are all monologues, and they focus on religion, history, love, art, and the personal perspectives of Browning's speakers. Take a look at “Fra Lippo Lippi,” for example. In it, we are given a glimpse into life under the Medici family in the fifteenth century. Too, the poem reflects on art and comments on religion (for Lippo is a monk but not, it seems, overly devoted to his vocation). In “A Toccata of Galuppi's,” we read about the power of music to call to mind a scene that is physically remote from the speaker yet vivid in his mind. The poem meditates on death and love through this music-conjured scene. “The Patriot” reflects on how quickly people's opinions can change, and “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” is about a young man's quest through a blighted, threatening world but also through his memory. Browning's collections are filled with poems presenting disparate ideas, novel speakers, and unique perspectives. To summarize each would lose sight of the nuance and individuality of the poems; it is no mean task to capture the essence of a poetry collection.

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